Category: protest


Libyan opposition sets conditions for cease-fire

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110401/ap_on_bi_ge/af_libya

By BEN HUBBARD and RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Ben Hubbard And Ryan Lucas, Associated Press 15 mins ago

BENGHAZI, Libya – Libya’s rebels will agree to a cease-fire if Moammar Gadhafi pulls his military forces out of cities and allows peaceful protests against his regime, an opposition leader said Friday as rebels showed signs that their front-line organization is improving.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the opposition’s interim governing council based in Benghazi, spoke during a joint press conference with U.N. envoy Abdelilah Al-Khatib. After meeting government officials in Thursday, Al-Khatib was visiting the rebels’ de facto stronghold of Benghazi in hopes of reaching a political solution to the crisis embroiling the North African nation.

Abdul-Jalil said the rebels’ condition for a cease-fire is “that the Gadhafi brigades and forces withdraw from inside and outside Libyan cities to give freedom to the Libyan people to choose and the world will see that they will choose freedom.”

The U.N. resolution that authorized international airstrikes against Libya called for Gadhafi and the rebels to end hostilities. Gadhafi announced a cease-fire immediately but has shown no sign of heeding it. His forces continue to attack rebels in the east, where the opposition in strongest, and have besieged the only major rebel-held city in the west, Misrata.

The city has been shelled by tanks and artillery for days, said a doctor in a Misrata hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals. Many people have been killed, including eight since Thursday, he said. He said Gadhafi brigades control the port and a main street, but rebels control the heart of the city.

Abdul-Jalil said the regime must withdraw its forces and lift all sieges.

He stressed the ultimate goal was Gadhafi’s ouster.

“Our aim is to liberate and have sovereignty over all of Libya with its capital in Tripoli,” he said.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The U.N. said Al-Khatib arrived Thursday in Tripoli.

Forces loyal to Libya’s leader of nearly 42 years spent much of this week pushing the rebels back about 100 miles (160 kilometers) along the coast. On Friday, the opposition showed signs of gaining discipline on what has often been a disorganized battlefield.

Fighters said fresh forces were coming in, mostly ex-military, but also volunteers with not quite a month of training. The rebels also appeared to have more communication equipment such as radios and satellite phones, and were working in more organized units, in which military defectors were each leading six or seven volunteers.

The untrained masses who have rushed in and out of the fight for weeks with no apparent organization were barred from the front line. They stayed to the rear, to hold the line temporarily in case Gadhafi’s forces attempt to flank the rebels.

“The problem with the young untrained guys is they’ll weaken us at the front, so we’re trying to use them as a backup force,” said Mohammed Majah, 33, a former sergeant. “They have great enthusiasm, but that’s not enough now.”

Majah said the only people at the front now are former soldiers, “experienced guys who have been in reserves, and about 20 percent are young revolutionaries who have been in training and are in organized units.”

The rebels also had mortars Friday, weapons they previously appeared to have lacked, and on Thursday night they drove in a convoy with at least eight rocket launchers — more artillery than usual.

The rebels’ losses this week, and others before airstrikes began March 19, underlined that their equipment, training and organization were far inferior to those of Gadhafi’s forces. The recent changes appear to be an attempt to correct, or at least ease, the imbalance.

It was not immediately clear where the front line was on Friday. On Thursday, the opposition had moved into Brega, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Ajdabiya, before Gadhafi’s forces pushed them out.

Gadhafi’s greatest losses this week were not military but political. Two members of his inner circle, including his foreign minister, abandoned him Wednesday and Thursday, setting off speculation about other officials who may be next. The defections could sway people who have stuck with Gadhafi despite the uprising that began Feb. 15 and the international airstrikes aimed at keeping the autocrat from attacking his own people.

Libyan state TV aired a phone interview with intelligence chief Bouzeid Dorda to knock down rumors that he also left Gadhafi.

“I am in Libya and will remain here steadfast in the same camp of the revolution despite everything,” Dorda said. “I never thought to cross the borders or violate commitment to the people, the revolution and the leader.”

Gadhafi struck a defiant stance in a statement Thursday, saying he’s not the one who should go — it’s the Western leaders who attacking his military with airstrikes who should resign immediately. Gadhafi’s message was undercut by its delivery — a scroll across the bottom of state TV as he remained out of sight.

The White House said the strongman’s inner circle was clearly crumbling with the loss of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, who flew from Tunisia to England on Wednesday. Koussa is privy to all the inner workings of the regime, so his departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.

Ali Abdessalam Treki, a former foreign minister and U.N. General Assembly president, announced his departure on several opposition websites the next day, saying “It is our nation’s right to live in freedom and democracy and enjoy a good life.”

Gadhafi accused the leaders of the countries attacking his forces of being “affected by power madness.”

“The solution for this problem is that they resign immediately and their peoples find alternatives to them,” the Libya state news agency quoted him as saying.

___

Lucas reported from Ajdabiya, Libya. Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Tripoli and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110331/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Ryan Lucas, Associated Press 2 hrs 13 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya – The defection of Libya’s foreign minister, a member of Moammar Gadhafi’s inner circle, is the latest sign that the embattled regime is cracking at the highest levels as the West keeps up pressure on the longtime leader to relinquish power.

In another blow to the regime, U.S. officials revealed Wednesday that the CIA has sent small teams of operatives into rebel-held eastern Libya while the White House debates whether to arm the opposition.

Despite the setbacks and ongoing NATO airstrikes on government forces, Gadhafi loyalists have been logging successes on the battlefield, retaking much of the territory the rebels had captured since airstrikes began March 19.

Britain’s government said Wednesday that Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa had arrived in Britain on a flight from Tunisia and was resigning from his post, though the Libyan government denied it. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the resignation showed the regime is “fragmented, under pressure and crumbling.”

Koussa is not the first high-ranking member of the regime to quit — the justice and interior ministers resigned early in the conflict and joined the rebellion based in the east. Koussa, however, is a close confidant of Gadhafi’s, privy to all the inner workings of the regime. His departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.

Koussa was Libya’s chief of intelligence for more than a decade. The opposition holds responsible for the assassinations of dissidents in western capitals and for orchestrating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and the bombing of another jet over Niger a year later.

In later years, however, Koussa played an important role in persuading Western nations to lift sanctions on Libya and remove its name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. He led settlements of Lockerbie, offered all information about Libya’s nuclear program and gave London and Washington information about Islamic militants after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“His defection is a serious blow” to Gadhafi, Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said in a story posted on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website. “This is the first loss of such a close comrade,” he said, adding that he may have be able to identify other potential defectors.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

Abrams, who met Koussa in 2004 in negotations over Libya’s handover of weapons of mass destruction programs, described him as a handsome, well-dressed man speaking perfect English. Koussa attended Michigan State University in the 1970s.

Abrams said the simple fact that Koussa was able to make it to England “suggests that the regime is falling apart despite its battlefield victories in the last two days.” His departure suggest that Gadhafi’s inner circle “now know how this story ends, and do not wish to be with the dictator when that end comes,” he said.

On Thursday, the rebels came under heavy shelling by Gadhafi’s forces in the strategic oil town of Brega on the coastal road that leads to Tripoli. Black smoke billowed in the air over Brega as mortars exploded.

“Gadhafi’s forces advanced to about 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Brega,” said rebel fighter Fathi Muktar, 41. Overnight, he said the rebels had temporarily pushed them back, but by morning they were at the gates of Brega. “There were loads of wounded at the front lines this morning,” he said of rebel casualties.

The poorly equipped rebels’ setbacks are hardening the U.S. view that they are probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

The U.S. has made clear that it is considering providing arms to the rebels. Still, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday no decision has been made yet.

“We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in,” he said.

Obama said in a national address Monday night that U.S. troops would not be used on the ground in Libya.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110329/ts_yblog_thelookout/until-uprising-gadhafis-son-was-on-u-s-internship

When unrest exploded in Libya last month, Khamis Gadhafi–the youngest son of the country’s embattled leader Muammar Gadhafi–wasn’t around. He was on an internship program in the United States.

Khamis, who runs Libya’s special forces, quickly returned to his home country, where he has led a military unit that has brutally suppressed rebel forces.

The internship, which lasted a month, was sponsored by AECOM, a Los Angeles-based global engineering and design company that has been working with the Libyan regime to modernize the country’s infrastructure. Khadis made stops in San Francisco, Colorado, Houston, Washington, and New York City, meeting with high-tech companies (including Google, Apple, and Intel), universities, and defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. While in the Big Apple, Khamis even took in the Broadway show “Mamma Mia.”

News of Khamis’s internship, which was approved by the State Department, was first reported by ABC News.

Since coming home, Khamis appears to have played a key role in helping his father’s regime in its violent campaign to quell the uprising. He has led the elite 32nd Reinforced Brigade, known at the Khamis Brigade, which reportedly has been involved in brutally suppressing rebel forces.

Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Chiefs of Staff described the Khamis Brigade, whose headquarters were the target of U.S. Tomahawk missiles, as “one of the most active in terms of attacking innocent people.”

On Monday night, Libyan television showed Khamis dressed in his military uniform and greeting people at his father’s Tripoli compound.

A spokesman for AECOM told CNN that the company was “shocked and outraged” to learn of Khamis’ military role.

AECOM added in a statement: “The educational internship, which consisted of publicly available information, was aligned with our efforts to improve quality of life, specifically in Libya, where we were advancing public infrastructure such as access to clean water; quality housing; safe and efficient roads and bridges; reliable and affordable energy; and related projects that create jobs and opportunity.”

This isn’t the first time that Gadhafi’s sons–and their ties to the west — have hit the headlines. As we’ve written, the regime was embarrassed after Wikileaks cables shed light on the lavish New Year’s parties that another son, Muatassim, has held on the Caribbean island of St. Barts, at which Mariah Carey, Usher, and Beyonce have all been paid to perform. And the current crisis also has spotlighted the Libyan leader’s own personal eccentricities.

(Soldiers and dozens of tanks from the Libyan military’s elite Khamis Brigade, led by Khamis Gadhafi. take positions and check vehicles in Harshan, Libya, Feb. 28, 2011.: Ben Curtis/AP)

Fighting’s effect on Libya civilians remains murky

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 5 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s government accused U.S.-led forces of ignoring civilian casualties on Friday, showing journalists a Tripoli neighborhood that has come under attack for at least two nights. U.S. and British officials insisted civilians have been spared and retort that the Libyan leader has engineered his own atrocities.

At the heart of the dispute is the difficulty separating rhetoric and stage-management from the pain of people who may have lost family, homes and sometimes livelihoods. Or maybe not.

On Friday, Libyan officials took foreign journalists to Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood, on the outskirts of the city. Two military bases on the way had clearly been hit, their buildings twisted and damaged. Black smoke still rose from one.

The small farm where the bus finally stops was a wreck: The windows were smashed in, the television toppled over. Plaster was everywhere on the floor, but the painted walls were intact. It’s the home of Rajab Mohammed, who said the bomb hit at the base of the palm just outside. Next to the palm was a pit, the size of a large beach ball.

“There were bullets everywhere,” said Mohammed, struggling to explain the source of bullet holes on the outside of the house.

A U.S. official said ships in the Mediterranean launched 15 more Tomahawk cruise missiles overnight, targeting garrisons near Tripoli. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Airstrikes and missiles are unpredictable, and the Gadhafi government’s efforts seem only to muddy the picture. Journalists are taken to the morgue, where bodies are hauled out without identification or circumstances of death.

The U.S. military said coalition jets flew about 150 sorties on Thursday, about 70 of them with American planes.

“I cannot be sure that there have been no civilian casualties. What I can be sure of is that we have been very, very precise and discriminate in our targeting,” Army Gen. Carter Ham said late Thursday at a briefing at the Sigonella air base in Sicily.

“They don’t talk about the thousands of Libyan citizens which they have killed, which we know it is very true. And I’m sorry if I’m a little emotional about this. The people who are killing civilians are the regime of this current government leader in Libya,” Ham said.

On Friday, the British government went farther.

“In fact there are no confirmed civilian casualties so far from the coalition airstrikes, and missile strikes, in all the operations since Saturday. Civilian casualties are being caused solely by the Gadhafi regime,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

Libyan state television showed blackened and mangled bodies that it said were victims of airstrikes in Tripoli. Rebels have accused Gadhafi’s forces of taking bodies from the morgue and pretending they were civilian casualties, an allegation bolstered by a U.S. intelligence report.

The report Monday said that a senior Gadhafi aide was told to take bodies from a morgue and place them at the scene of the bomb damage, to be displayed for visiting journalists. A senior U.S. defense official revealed the contents of the intelligence report on condition of anonymity because it was classified secret.

Human Rights Watch’s London director Tom Porteus cautioned that even confirmed evidence of civilian deaths did not necessarily mean negligence or malice given the uncertainties of aerial bombardment.

“Just because you’ve got a civilian body killed in an airstrike, doesn’t mean there’s been a war crime or even a violation of international humanitarian law,” he said. As for coalition officials, he said that they were “clearly bending over backward to say that they’re bending over backward to avoid civilian casualties.”

___

Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110307/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press Paul Schemm, Associated Press 2 hrs 7 mins ago

RAS LANOUF, Libya – Libyan warplanes launched fresh airstrikes on rebel positions around a key oil port Monday, trying to block the opposition fighters from advancing toward Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold in the capital, Tripoli.

Rebels in the area said they can take on Gadhafi’s elite ground forces, but are outgunned if he uses his air power.

“We don’t want a foreign military intervention, but we do want a no-fly zone,” said rebel fighter Ali Suleiman. He added that the rebels can take on “the rockets and the tanks, but not Gadhafi’s air force.”

Libya appears to be sliding toward a civil war that could drag out for weeks, or even months, as rebels try to oust Gadhafi after 41 years. Resorting to heavy use of air attacks signaled the regime’s concern that it needed to check the advance of the rebel force toward Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown and stronghold.

Anti-Gadhafi forces would get a massive morale boost if they captured Sirte, and it would clear a major obstacle on the march toward the gates of Tripoli.

There were no casualties in Monday’s airstrike on Ras Lanouf, which came one day after pro-regime forces pounded opposition fighters with helicopter gunships, artillery and rockets to stop the rebels’ rapid advance toward Tripoli.

Mohamad Samir, an army colonel fighting with the rebels, said his forces are expecting reinforcements from the east.

The uprising against Gadhafi, which began Feb. 15, is already longer and much bloodier than the relatively quick revolts that overthrew the longtime authoritarian leaders of neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

A government spokesman, Abdel-Majid al-Dursi, denied rumors that there had been an assassination attempt against Gadhafi, saying the claims are “baseless rumors.” The speculation started Sunday, when residents in the capital awoke before dawn to the crackle of unusually heavy and sustained gunfire.

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it near impossible to get an accurate tally. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers. The exodus is creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia — another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.

The turmoil is being felt more broadly still in the form of rising oil prices. Libya’s oil production has been seriously crippled by the unrest.

The conflict in Libya took a turn late last week when government opponents, backed by mutinous army units and armed with weaponry seized from storehouses, went on the offensive. At the same time, pro-Gadhafi forces have conducted counteroffensives to try to retake the towns and oil ports the rebels have captured since they moved out of the rebel-held east.

An opposition force estimated at 500 to 1,000 fighters has been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf.

In and around the government-held town of Bin Jawwad, on the road to Sirte, pro-regime forces were running patrols Monday and there were minor reports of skirmishes with rebels on the outskirts. On Sunday, battles there killed eight people and wounded 59, said Ibrahim Said, deputy director of Ajdabiya hospital.

If the rebels continue to advance, even slowly, Gadhafi’s heavy dependence on air power could prompt the West to try to hurriedly enforce a no-fly zone over the country. The U.N. has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and the U.S. has moved military forces closer to its shores to back up its demand that Gadhafi step down.

Enforcing a no-fly zone could take weeks to organize, however, and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted that it must be preceded by a military operation to take out Libya’s air defenses. British Foreign Minister William Hague said Sunday that a no-fly zone over Libya is still in an early stage of planning and ruled out the use of ground forces.

As fighting across Libya grew more fierce, the international community appeared to be struggling to put military muscle behind its demands for Gadhafi to give up power.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke to Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday, and called for an end to hostilities, according to a U.N. statement, which said Kusa agreed to the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli.

Valerie Amos, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement that the Benghazi Red Crescent reported that Misrata was under attack by government forces.

“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now,” she said. “People are injured and dying and need help immediately.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, has discretely begun contacts with Libya’s provisional transitional national council to find out about the rebels’ intentions.

Suleiman, the rebel fighter, said his forces are waiting for reinforcements in Ras Lanouf.

“The orders are to stay here and guard the refinery, because oil is what makes the world go round,” Suleiman said.

Seriouly, Gadhafi needs to step down, but of course he wont until something happens. So ya’ll tell me what you think.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110306/ap_on_re_us/us_muslim_hearings

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Eileen Sullivan And Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Sun Mar 6, 6:54 pm ET

STERLING, Va. – Muslim Americans are not part of the terrorism problem facing the U.S. — they are part of the solution, a top White House official said Sunday at a Washington-area mosque.

Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough set the Obama administration’s tone for discussions as tensions escalate before the first in a series of congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization. The hearings, chaired by New York Republican Peter King, will focus on the level of cooperation from the Muslim community to help law enforcement combat radicalization.

The majority of the recent terror plots and attempts against the U.S. have involved people espousing a radical and violent view of Islam. Just a few weeks ago a college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Texas was arrested after he bought explosive chemicals online. It was part of a plan to hide bomb materials inside dolls and baby carriages and blow up dams, nuclear plants or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.

King said the Muslim community could and should do more to work with law enforcement to stop its members from radicalizing and recruiting others to commit violence.

“I don’t believe there is sufficient cooperation” by American Muslims with law enforcement, King said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same — they do not give the level of cooperation that they need.”

In New York City on Sunday, about 300 protestors gathered in Times Square to speak out against King’s hearing, criticizing it as xenophobic and saying that singling out Muslims, rather than extremists, is unfair.

McDonough said that instead of condemning whole communities, the U.S. needs to protect them from intimidation.

McDonough spoke to an interfaith forum at a Northern Virginia mosque known for its longtime relationship and cooperation with the FBI. The executive director of the center, Imam Mohamed Magid, also spoke, as did speakers from a local synagogue and a Presbyterian church.

The administration has tried to strike a balance on the thorny issue, working to go after homegrown Islamic extremists without appearing to be at war with the Muslim world. There has been an effort to build stronger relationships with Muslims — internationally and in the United States.

During his remarks Sunday, McDonough called the mosque a “typically American place” and said it reminded him of his Catholic parish where he grew up in Minnesota.

“Being religious is never un-American. Being religious is quintessentially American,” he said.

He commended the mosque’s members for taking “an unequivocal stand against terrorism.”

“You’ve sent a message that those who perpetrate such horrific attacks do not represent you or your faith, and that they will not succeed in pitting believers of different faiths against one another,” McDonough said.

The White House is close to finalizing a strategy for countering violent extremism. McDonough leads a working group of 13 federal agencies and offices — including the National Counterterrorism Center and the departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and State — focused on finding ways to confront the problem.

“No community can be expected to meet a challenge as complex as this alone,” McDonough said. “No one community can be expected to become experts in terrorist organizations, how they are evolving, how they are using new tools and technology to reach our young people.”

___

Baldor reported from Washington.

So, I was looking on Yahoo and found this. Now, I think that we, not just Muslims, should work with law enforcement to try to stop all this voilence from happening. I want to know what ya’ll think so please comment and tell me.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110302/ts_yblog_thelookout/u-s-contemplates-military-options-as-libyan-unrest-continues

Muammar Gaddafi vowed to hang on to power in a speech Wednesday–and regime forces are reported to have made territorial gains, raising the prospect of a civil war in Libya. The United States is under increasing pressure to consider forceful action to avert a bloodbath in the country, from imposing a no-fly zone to setting up humanitarian corridors to protect civilians.

But Defense Secretary Bob Gates made clear Tuesday that, with 150,000 U.S. forces already deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and unrest simmering from Algeria to Yemen, he’s reluctant to commit U.S. military forces elsewhere in the Middle East. However, the United States ordered the deployment this week of two Navy vessels, including the amphibious assault ship the Kearsarge, and 400 U.S. Marines toward Libya from the Persian Gulf.

“We also have to think about, frankly, the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.

“If we move additional assets, what are the consequences of that for Afghanistan, for the Persian Gulf?” Gates said. “And what other allies are prepared to work with us in some of these things?”

Top U.S. military brass also warned Congress Tuesday that imposing a NATO no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from air attack by Gaddafi’s forces would be a far more complex endeavor than many appreciate. It would require first taking out Libya’s air defenses.

“So no illusions here,” CENTCOM Commander Gen. Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It would be a military operation. It wouldn’t be just telling people not to fly airplanes.”

The latest Middle East crisis poses a key dilemma for the Obama administration, pitting humanitarian concerns against broader Middle East strategic considerations. The involvement of U.S. military forces even in an internationally led operation intended to avert atrocities against Libyan civilians could give a sharp anti-American cast to the anti-government unrest in the Middle East. But even as military advisers urge restraint, some in Congress and key humanitarian and pro-democracy advocates are urging the Obama administration to take more forceful measures to avert possible bloodshed.

Middle East experts note the Obama administration has already taken a number of steps in close consultation with international allies. Among these are the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Libya on Saturday, the opening of an International Criminal Court investigation of Libyan war crimes, freezing $30 billion in Libyan assets in the United States on Sunday–and the symbolic measure voting Libya off the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

“I think a no-fly zone, targeted sanctions, and referral to [the International Criminal Court] are all realistic and appropriate,” said George Washington University Middle East expert Marc Lynch, who has consulted with the White House several times over the past month on both Egypt and Libya. “It’s extremely important to send a signal not just to Gaddafi but to all the other dictators in the region and world who might be tempted to use brutal violence against their people to stay in power that it’s not actually going to keep them in power.”

Experts said at this stage, the movement of U.S. naval power towards Libya was more about messaging than action–persuading Gaddafi loyalists that his downfall is imminent.

“They are sure hoping they don’t have to use them and that this thing will be over, everyone keeps hoping, before they have to take more drastic and costly measures,” said the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Michele Dunne, a former State Department and NSC official who has also been in frequent consultation with the White House.

Former State Department Middle East official Joel Rubin, now with the progressive National Security Network, says the real question for the United States is defining an end goal.

“On the practical level, defining the goal is essential,” Rubin said. “If we have learned anything from our recent experience of military adventures in the Arab world, it is that we have to have a clear and compelling goal that is achievable. And in the case of Libya, there are two goals … the first is humanitarian protection, and the second is removing Gaddafi.” Rubin said that a no-fly zone is the option that analysts are discussing most frequently on the humanitarian front.

But Rubin said even a no-fly zone will not be a panacea. “At this point, Gaddafi is strong because he has guns and money. By deploying a no fly zone … you attempt to reduce his guns, and by utilizing sanctions and asset freezes, you attempt to take away his money. Once those are both gone, yes he is beatable,” Rubin said. “But there’s no single magic bullet. There’s no shock and awe.”

(The United States amphibious assault ship USS Ponce sails through the Suez Canal at Ismailia , Egypt, Wednesday, March 2, 2011.: AP Photo)

Rebels push back Libya regime attack on oil port

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/af_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Paul Schemm And Maggie Michael, Associated Press 59 mins ago

BREGA, Libya – Opponents of Moammar Gahadfi repelled an attack by the Libyan leader’s forces trying to retake a key coastal oil installation in a topsy-turvy battle Wednesday in which shells splashed in the Mediterranean and a warplane bombed a beach where rebel fighters were charging over the dunes. At least five people were killed in the fighting.

The assault on the Brega oil port was the first major regime counteroffensive against the opposition-held eastern half of Libya, where the population backed by mutinous army units rose up and drove out Gadhafi’s rule over the past two weeks.

For the past week, pro-Gadhafi forces have been focusing on the west, securing his stronghold in the capital Tripoli and trying to take back nearby rebel-held cities with only mixed success.

But the foray east against opposition-held Brega appeared to stumble. The pro-Gadhafi forces initially re-captured the oil facilities Wednesday morning. But then a wave of opposition citizen militias drove them out again, cornering them in a nearby university campus where they battled for several hours until the approximately 200 Gadhafi loyalists fled, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

In the capital, Gadhafi vowed, “We will fight until the last man and woman.” He lashed out against Europe and the United States for their pressure on him to step down, warning that thousands of Libyans will die if U.S. and NATO forces intervene in the conflict.

The United States is moving naval and air forces closer to Libyan shores and is calling for Gadhafi to give up power immediately. The U.S., Britain and other NATO countries are drawing up contingency plans to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s air forces from striking rebels. But any no-fly zone would need a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, where veto-holding Russia opposes the idea.

“We will not accept an intervention like that of the Italians that lasted decades,” Gadhafi said, referring to Italy’s colonial rule early in the 20th Century. “We will not accept a similar American intervention. This will lead to a bloody war and thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya.”

Opposition members said they believe Gadhafi was pulling up reinforcements from bases deep in the deserts of southwestern Libya, flying them to the fronts on the coast.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

Soon after sunrise Wednesday, a large force of Gadhafi loyalists in around 50 SUVS, some mounted with machine guns, descended on opposition-held Brega, 460 miles (740 kilometers) east of Tripoli along the Mediterranean. The force caught a small opposition contingent guarding the site by suprise and it fled, said Ahmed Dawas, an anti-Gadhafi fighter at a checkpoint outside the port.

The pro-Gadhafi forces seized the port, airstrip and the oil facilities where about 4,000 personnel work, as regime warplanes hit an ammunition depot on the outskirts of the nearby rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, witnesses said.

Midmorning, the opposition counter-attacked. Anti-Gadhafi fighters with automatic weapons sped out of Ajdabiya in pickup trucks, heading for Brega, 40 miles away (70 kilometers) away. Dawas said they retook the oil facilities and airstrip. Other witnesses reported regime forces were surrounded by rebels. The sound of screaming warplanes and the crackle of heavy gunfire could be heard as the witnesses spoke to The Associated Press by phone.

By the afternoon, the regime fighters fled the oil facilities and holed up in a nearby university campus, where they came under siege by anti-Gadhafi fighters, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

Machine gun and automatic weapons fire rattled in the air, and shells lobbed from the campus went over the anti-Gadhafi side to splash in the Mediterranean.

At one point, a warplane from Gadhafi’s airforce swooped overhead and an explosion was heard. A witness said it struck an empty stretch of dunes near the battle, sending a plume of sand into the air but causing no injuries in an apparent attempt to intimidate the anti-Gadhafi side.

But opposition citizen militias poured into the battle, arriving from Ajdabiya and armed with assault rifles. They moved through the dunes along the beach against the campus next to a pristine blue-water Mediterranean beach. Those without guns picked up bottles and put wicks in them to make firebombs.

An ambulance driver who was briefly held by the pro-Gadhafi force and then released told AP they numbered about 200 fighters. The forces came to Brega from Sirte, Gadhafi’s main remaining stronghold in central Libya, 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of the oil port, said the driver, Jumaa Shway.

At least five opposition fighters were killed in the fighting, their bodies covered with sand thrown up by shells bursting in the dunes. Angry crowds gathered around them at Brega’s hospital, chanting, “The blood of martyrs will not go in vain.”

In the late afternoon, the pro-Gadhafi force fled the campus, and opposition fighters were seen combing through the university buildings. Automatic gunfire was still heard in the distance, but it appeared the regime troops were withdrawing. The campus grounds and dunes between it and the beach were littered with casings and shells.

In Ajdabiya, people geared up to defend the city, fearing the pro-Gadhafi forces would move on them next. At the gates of the city, hundreds of residents took up positions on the road from Brega, armed with Kalashnikovs and hunting rifles, along with a few rocket-propelled grenade launchers. They set up two large rocket launchers and an anti-aircraft gun in the road. But by the evening, there was no sign of attack there.

Brega and nearby Ajdabiya are the furthest west points in the large contiguous swath of eastern Libya extending all the way to the Egyptian border that fell into opposition hands in the uprising that began Feb. 15. Ajdabiya is about 90 miles (150 kilometers) from Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and the nerve center of the opposition.

Brega is the second-largest hydrocarbon complex in OPEC-member Libya. Amid the turmoil, exports from its ports have all but stopped with no ships coming to load up with crude and natural gas. Crude production in the southeastern oil fields that feed into the facility has been scaled back because storage facilities at Brega were filling up. General Manager Fathi Eissa said last week the facility has had to scale back production dramatically from 90,000 barrels of crude a day to just 11,000.

The unrest in Libya — which ranks about 17th among world oil producers and has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves — has sparked a major spike in world oil prices. Overall crude production has dropped from 1.6 million barrels per day to 850,000.

Gadhafi’s regime has been left in control of Libya’s northwest corner, centered on Tripoli, but even here several cities have fallen into rebel hands after residents rose up in protests, backed by mutinous army units and drove out Gadhafi loyalists.

In recent days, loyalists succeeded in regaining two of those towns — Gharyan, a strategic town in the Nafusa mountains south of Tripoli, and Sabratha, a small town west of the capital.

But opposition fighters successfully repulsed attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces on several others: the key city of Zawiya outside the capital; Misrata, Libya’s third largest city east of Tripoli; and Zintan, a town further southwest in the Nafusa mountains.

The regime may be bringing in more forces from regions it still dominates in the sparsely populated deserts in the southwest.

Residents of the southwestern oasis town of Sebha — a key Gahdafi stronghold with military bases 400 miles (560 kilometers) south of Tripoli — reported heavy movement at the airport there Tuesday night, said Abdel-Bari Zwei, one of the opposition activists in Ajdabiya in touch with sympathizers in Sebha. Zwei said it is believed some of those forces were involved in the offensive against Brega.

In his speech Wednesday, Gadhafi lashed out at international moves against his regime, including the freezing of his and other Libyan assets abroad — an act he called “piracy” — and efforts by Europe to send aid to opposition-held Benghazi. He said any Libyan who accepts international aid was guilty of “high treason” because it “opens Libya to colonialism.”

In a pointed message to Europe, he warned, “There will be no stability in the Mediterranean if there is no stability in Libya.”

“Africans will march to Europe without anyone to stop them. The Mediterranean will become a center for piracy like Somalia,” he said. Gadhafi’s regime has worked closely with Italy and other European countries to stop African migrants who use Libya as a launching point to slip into Europe.

He also threatened to bring in Chinese and Indian companies to replace Western companies in Libya’s oil sector if the West keeps up its pressure on him. European firms are heavily involved in Libya’s oil production.

Michael reported from Tripoli, Libya.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110302/ap_on_re_us/us_army_new_fitness_test

By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER, Associated Press Susanne M. Schafer, Associated Press Tue Mar 1, 8:54 pm ET

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Sit-ups don’t make a soldier, the Army has decided. So its 30-year-old fitness requirements are getting a battlefield-inspired makeover.

Soon every soldier will have to run on a balance beam with two 30-pound canisters of ammunition, drag a sled weighted with 180 pounds of sandbags and vault over obstacles while carrying a rifle. Those were just some of the tests the Army unveiled Tuesday as it moves toward making its physical training look more like combat.

Right now soldiers have to complete sit-ups, push-ups and a two-mile run twice a year within times that vary by age and gender. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the general in charge of the Army’s initial military training, said he has been working to change that test for years.

Hertling said the current test “does not adequately measure components of strength, endurance, or mobility,” or predict how well a soldier would do under fire.

A new annual “combat readiness” test includes running 400 meters — about a quarter of a mile — with a rifle, moving through an obstacle course in full combat gear, and crawling and vaulting over obstacles while aiming a rifle. Soldiers also will have to run on a balance beam while carrying 30-pound ammo boxes and do an agility sprint around a course field of cones.

Soldiers also will have to drag sleds weighted with sandbags to test their ability to pull a fallen comrade from the battlefield. The combat test might be given before deployments as well as annually, but that has not been decided.

The Army will keep elements of its old assessment in a “physical readiness” test, which adds such things as a 60-yard shuttle run and a standing long jump to one minute of push-ups and a 1.5-mile timed run. This might be given every six months, said Frank Palkoska, head of the Army’s Fitness School at Fort Jackson.

Hertling said trials of the new program are starting this month at eight bases and the plan could be adopted Army-wide after reviews later this year.

Click image to see photos of the Army’s new fitness tests

Soldiers who ran the proposed “combat readiness” portion of the test Tuesday told reporters the exercises were tough, even for combat veterans.

Wearing a battle helmet and carrying a rifle, Staff Sgt. Timothy Shoenfelt teetered as he trod the balance beam, holding ammo tins in each hand. His pace slowed a bit as he dragged the green sled behind him, then held his M-4 steady as he strode sideways through the “point-move-aim” portion of the test.

“My quads are on fire!” the 31-year-old from Indiana, Pa., said afterward. “It really made me breathe hard and challenged a lot of muscle groups.”

Wheeled vehicle mechanic and Sgt. 1st Class Cornelius Trammell, 33, of Eufaula, Ala., said it will be important for all soldiers to go through tests, even if their jobs are behind desks. He laughed when reporters commented on his sweaty face.

“You never know when you might need it, whether you are in the infantry or if you’re a mechanic,” said Trammell, who’s been deployed three times.

The tests will be given to all soldiers and officers, including Army Reserves and National Guard, even those recalled soldiers who are now over 60, officials said. Specific gender and age standards are still being worked out, Palkoska said.

The shift follows other Army efforts to overhaul training, improve diets and help older soldiers keep fit. Hertling said the Army is trying to better prepare soldiers for the 40 to 70 pounds of weapons and body armor many of them need to carry in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Soldiers like to be challenged. This will definitely challenge them,” Hertling said.

The Army also is hoping to reduce injuries — both in the field and from repetitive exercises.

“This is about training smarter, not just training more,” Hertling said.

Staff Sgt. Danica Foster, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who pumped through a shuttle run and did push-ups for the “physical readiness” section, said the new tests will require soldiers to work on their upper body strength. Female soldiers will have to work to get them done, she said.

“I honestly believe, though, that if I can do this, anybody can,” she said with a laugh.

Besides Fort Jackson, the program will be tested at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and at the Army’s military academy at West Point.

Protesters defy efforts to clear Wisconsin Capitol

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110228/ap_on_re_us/us_wisconsin_budget_unions

By DINESH RAMDE and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Dinesh Ramde And David A. Lieb, Associated Press 8 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Protesters who spent the night in Wisconsin’s Capitol vowed Monday to remain as long as necessary to speak out against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to end most collective bargaining rights and demonstrate against his budget.

Walker planned to deliver his two-year budget plan in the state Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon. He has said that plan will help make clear why the collective bargaining concessions he is seeking from public employees are necessary to help plug a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Walker has said his budget will include about a $1 billion cut in state aids to schools and local governments. He is also expected to propose dramatic changes to how the University of Wisconsin is organized, make cuts to Medicaid and possibly increase fees to help raise money.

Police said Monday that cleaning of the Capitol continued despite the continued presence of the protesters, as did security preparations for Walker’s budget speech.

Police decided not to forcibly remove protesters after thousands ignored a 4 p.m. Sunday deadline to leave so the normally immaculate building could get a thorough cleaning. Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said no demonstrators will be arrested as long as they continue to obey the law.

“People here have acted lawfully and responsibly,” Tubbs said. “There’s no reason to consider arrests.”

The floors where several hundred protesters had slept previous nights looked unusually bare late Sunday as the smaller crowd of people walked around in socks, lounged on blankets and curled up under jackets.

But organizers said they were confident that demonstrators who were persuaded to leave Sunday would return to continue fighting Walker’s efforts to strip nearly all public workers from their collective bargaining rights except over wages. Protesters have staged a sit-in that began Feb. 15 and hit its peak Saturday, when more than 70,000 people descended on the Capitol grounds for a rally.

Click image to see photos of the Wisconsin protest

By DINESH RAMDE and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Dinesh Ramde And David A. Lieb, Associated Press 8 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Protesters who spent the night in Wisconsin’s Capitol vowed Monday to remain as long as necessary to speak out against Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to end most collective bargaining rights and demonstrate against his budget.

Walker planned to deliver his two-year budget plan in the state Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon. He has said that plan will help make clear why the collective bargaining concessions he is seeking from public employees are necessary to help plug a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Walker has said his budget will include about a $1 billion cut in state aids to schools and local governments. He is also expected to propose dramatic changes to how the University of Wisconsin is organized, make cuts to Medicaid and possibly increase fees to help raise money.

Police said Monday that cleaning of the Capitol continued despite the continued presence of the protesters, as did security preparations for Walker’s budget speech.

Police decided not to forcibly remove protesters after thousands ignored a 4 p.m. Sunday deadline to leave so the normally immaculate building could get a thorough cleaning. Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said no demonstrators will be arrested as long as they continue to obey the law.

“People here have acted lawfully and responsibly,” Tubbs said. “There’s no reason to consider arrests.”

The floors where several hundred protesters had slept previous nights looked unusually bare late Sunday as the smaller crowd of people walked around in socks, lounged on blankets and curled up under jackets.

But organizers said they were confident that demonstrators who were persuaded to leave Sunday would return to continue fighting Walker’s efforts to strip nearly all public workers from their collective bargaining rights except over wages. Protesters have staged a sit-in that began Feb. 15 and hit its peak Saturday, when more than 70,000 people descended on the Capitol grounds for a rally.

Click image to see photos of the Wisconsin protest

Walker argues that his measure would help close a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-13 budget. He believes that freeing local governments from having to collectively bargain with public employee unions would give them the flexibility needed to deal with forthcoming budget cuts.

Labor leaders and Democratic lawmakers say the bill is intended to undermine the unions and weaken a key base of Democratic Party voters.

Paul Golueke, 24, a social worker from Milwaukee, said he planned to stay at the Capitol until at least Tuesday’s budget address.

“If the budget contains provisions like in this budget-repair bill, I’ll stay here as long as it takes,” Golueke said. “Scott Walker doesn’t understand our passion. The eyes of the nation, of the world, are on us and we can’t back down.”

The state agency that oversees the Capitol had asked demonstrators to leave by Sunday afternoon, saying the building was in dire need of a cleaning. But it was clear that the estimated 4,000 protesters had no intention of leaving voluntarily.

Tubbs, the police chief, said demonstrators who had occupied all three floors of the Capitol would have to relocate to the ground floor. He said anyone who left the building would not be allowed back in until the morning, although union officials were allowed to deliver food to the protesters during the night.

“It was a victory for peace. It was a victory for democracy,” said Kara Randall, 46, a massage therapist from Middleton who had already spent five nights at the Capitol.

Walker’s spokesman declined to comment late Sunday on the police decision to keep the Capitol open to demonstrators. In an interview earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Walker said the lengthy protests haven’t eroded his resolve to push forward with his legislative agenda.

“Year after year, governors and legislators before us have kicked the can down the road,” Walker said. “We can’t do that. We’re broke. It’s about time someone stood up and told the truth in our state and said here’s our problem, here’s the solution and let’s do this.”

Walker’s proposal stalled in the state Senate when its 14 Democrats fled the state for Illinois, leaving the legislative body one vote short of a quorum. The Democratic senators have vowed to stay away from Wisconsin for as long as it takes. Democrats in Indiana have boycotted their statehouse for the past week to prevent a vote on Republican-backed proposals to introduce a similar bill.

Sen. Jim Holperin, one of the 14 from Wisconsin, said Monday morning that the Democrats remain united in their intention to stay away until a compromise can be found.

“I just believe there is some middle ground here,” Holperin said.

One of the Democrats, Sen. Lena Taylor, sent a tweet to support the protesters that read: “Thank you for exercising your 1st amend right – I’m glad my actions give you opportunity to stand/sit/express yourself!”

___

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this story.

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